“But I don’t see any reason – up against anybody, I think I can be as quick as anybody and I’ve showed that I’m consistent, so I don’t see any reason why I can’t be in the frame,” said Renault development driver Oliver Rowland about contending for a seat on the team’s 2018 Formula 1 lineup.
The former Formula Renault 3.5 champion British racer is second in the Formula 2 standings, next only to Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc.
Since 2016, he has been on the Renault F1 set-up and has spent a year in the young driver programme prior to being a development driver this season.
Current F1 race driver Nico Hulkenberg is signed up to 2018 while Jolyon Palmer is under contract up to 2017 only. A number of names have been floated for the seat for next season amid difficulties in Renault’s start for the season.
Asked if the media and public were dismissive of his chance at a 2018 seat with the team, Rowland confessed, “I suppose a little bit.”
The Brit, however, intimated his need to improve at where he is right now.
“It’s quite clear for me that I have to do my job first before I start looking and bigging myself up for that drive. I need to improve a little bit in F2.
“It’s just, in my opinion, the fact that the teams need to give younger drivers a chance. All we need is one chance to show if we’re good enough,” reckons Rowland who does “most of the simulator work” for Renault.
Back in the 2013, Rowland raced in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 where he finished ahead of Force India rising star Esteban Ocon and narrowly lost the title to Pierre Gasly.
“Yeah, I think sometimes you get the break, and he [Ocon] did. But he did a good year in F3 and GP3,” conceded the Renault racer, referring to Ferrari’s Ocon getting into F1 ahead of him and Gasly.
Nonetheless Rowland is confident in his performance to merit a shot at being listed for the F1 season next year.
“I took the gamble to go straight from Eurocup to 3.5, which is a bigger step. Sometimes you get a bit lucky and sometimes you don’t, but I think me and Pierre have proved ourselves against the likes of him.
Following Verstappen’s Track
Opening opportunities for young drivers can pay dividends. Rowland cites Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as an example. The Red Bull recruit jumped straight to F1 from the F3 circuit.
“If Max never got the chance, who knows… maybe if he’d gone to F2 and the team’s one second off, you can’t do one second, it’s not possible.
The British race driver emphasized on giving people a shot.
“Just need to be given the opportunity, really – both [myself and Gasly], because I think we can do a much better job than some of the people already in there.”